West Side Story

Perhaps it's heresy to say it, but the last thing I expected to work in the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story was the love story between Tony and Maria. Yes, I realize the show is a classic--in fact, there are few scores I'd rather hear more than this Bernstein/Sondheim masterwork. I'd pay top dollar just to listen to the Sharks and Jets holler "Mambo! Mambo! Go!" at each other before the orchestra tears into the punctuating brass of "Dance at the Gym," let alone thrill to the heart-stopping "America." Let's be honest, though: Tony and Maria can be real drips. Tony, supposedly a former gang member, runs around proclaiming corny stuff like "We got magic!" and Maria's virginal appeal seems awfully dim next to the high-wattage va-va-voom of that show-stealer Anita. But this latest tour, in which late librettist Arthur Laurents' Broadway direction is recreated by David Saint, beautifully articulates the pure ache and desire between this naive pair of sweethearts. The physical staging is often sublime: Just as Tony's final note of "Maria" starts to float toward the proscenium arch, the lady in question slides into view on her balcony, ready to take up a heated "Tonight." By the time the tragic denouement earns its tears when Maria's shawl becomes her widow's veil, a dark echo of its tender use during the faux-wedding play of "One Hand, One Heart," you understand more than ever that these are two kids so smitten--and, frankly, so turned on--that they can't fully comprehend that anything could stand in their way. STEVE WIECKING [Also see Gavin Borchert's review.]

Tue., Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 11-15, 2012

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